Lawmakers recently passed House Bill 1434, amending the laws regarding the sale and distribution of libations at spas, galleries, retail shops and restaurants. The bill is expected to take effect on July 1.
Once it goes into effect, merchants that aren’t legally able to offer wine will be able to apply for permits to do so. Jeff Good, a Northside restaurateur, is pleased with the bill and believes it will have a positive effect for businesses here and across the state.
Under the law, retailers will be able to obtain up to 12 one-day permits each year to serve wine at neighborhood events like Arts, Eats and Beats, Fondren Unwrapped, and Fondren After Five. Provisions in the measure also enable spas, studios and galleries to apply for licenses to serve wine throughout the year.
Businesses will have to have a defined area and cannot allow patrons to exit the shop with the wine. Merchants also must purchase the wine from a licensed liquor store in the same county, said FRF board member Reed Branson.
The bill also has a helpful measure for restaurants – one that Good said many customers will appreciate.
Under the new law, customers will now be able to leave the restaurant with their unfinished bottles of wine – something that Good said was illegal before the law’s passage. “This is something that Mothers Against Drunk Driving and restaurateurs were pushing for,”he said.
Beginning in July, patrons can inform the restaurant that they want to take their unfinished bottles home with them. A waiter will cork the bottle and seal it in a mylar bag that can’t be opened without using scissors or a knife. That way, the state’s open container laws won’t be violated, he said.
It could also cut down on drunk driving, because customers won’t feel like they have to finish off the wine before they leave. Good and Branson said ABC was instrumental in getting the bill passed. “They helped craft the legislation,”Good noted.
Mark Hicks, director of enforcement for Alcohol Beverage Control, said the bill will allow his office to focus on more pressing issues, such as underage drinking, illegal sales and bootlegging.